Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk

I have a policy of not reading cover flaps of books. I don’t read them because, all too often they give away salient plot points. Not all the time, but often enough that I’m irritated to the point of ignoring them completely. This was one of the cases where the cover flap had some pretty pertinent information that wasn’t exactly spoilerish, but told about aspects of the story that completely came out of left field for me when I was reading the book. I don’t know which is better – knowing beforehand or thinking the book you’re reading did a complete 180 and turned into another story. Not that I minded the 180, it was totally enjoyable, I just wonder if I would have read the first half differently had I known it was coming.

Anyhoo onto the story - Will Halpin is deaf. He is also sick of all the drama at his deaf school (as in he’s sick of having to prove he’s deaf enough and picking sides) and starts the new school year at a mainstream school. He’s understandably a little worried about how he’ll do. There won’t be any interpreters or closed captioning system for him, which is probably ok due to his superior lip reading skills. But he’s also thinking that it might be hard for him to fit in with his fellow students, with the difficulty of communicating. Lucky for him there is someone who knows some rudimentary sign language.

I really liked this book. I enjoyed Will’s voice (even though I could have done without some of the self-depreciating fat comments). He was funny, he was insightful, his voice was really fresh. I especially enjoyed how the author included both a family mystery and a wider mystery (that was the 180 people – I had no idea there was a mystery in this book!). I think most readers will be relatively sure at who did the crime, but the author did an awesome job at throwing just enough doubt into the mix that other people look like potential suspects as well. I was impressed. I also enjoyed the insights into deaf culture.

I could have done without Will writing sometimes inane information about his schoolmates into his notebook. I liked his nicknames (Jimmy Porkrinds for his bus driver cracked me UP), but the little notes seemed over the top and unnecessary and the sort of thing one would save for a stay-at-home-in-the-hidey-hole type of journal instead of one you carry with you. Small complaints for a really fun first novel.

Book Source: Library Copy


missprint said...

I haven't read this book but it occurred to me that even the most cautious protagonists sometimes leave ill-advised observations in notebooks they travel with. The big one, for me, is Harriet the Spy. But I also can't imagine what kind of troubles Greg Heffley would have if his diary, which I think he travels with(?), was acquired by a classmate.

Patti said...

Good point. I guess I just felt like he didn't have a memory issue so why on earth would he write this junk down???

Or maybe I just didn't find his anecdotes that funny (unlike his nicknames which were brilliant).

I really did like it. And I wonder if it will be popular within the deaf community. Here in austin we have the Texas School of the Deaf -a hugemongous school. I hope they find out about it. It might be nice to read about a deaf protagonist for a change.

Kelly said...

I don't read cover flaps either for the same reason! Also because if the flap is written poorly, I don't want that to make me pre-judge the book. I want the book's writing to stand on its own.